Gun Control and Mental Health

“There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was an expectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.” – Michael Waldman (Author of The Second Amendment:  A Biography)

First and foremost, I am a big advocate of the 2nd Amendment.  However, I agree with a ban on assault weapons.  There is no need for those types of weapons to be readily accessible to the civilian population.  They were designed to kill as many people as possible, period!  I have eight years of SWAT experience with assault weapons.  They are not meant for hunting in the traditional fashion but for hunting and killing human beings.  If you want to shoot assault weapons, please talk with your local military recruiters and proudly serve our country or pursue a career in law enforcement.  Why is this even a debate?!  Ban assault weapons.

Once again, there is a national debate on more gun control laws.  What in the world are more gun control laws going to accomplish?  Gun control laws are already on the books.  Criminals don’t usually go to the gun store and buy weapons they know they are going to use to commit crimes or murder.  Apparently, there are exceptions but that is where a ban on assault weapons may have prevented such tragedies as Vegas or Parkland.  Law enforcement always seems to get blamed for gun enforcement efforts.  People need to realize that there are more moving parts to the legal system; law enforcement officers are just the first step in the legal process.

There need to be stiffer sentencing guidelines for gun violations, such as day-for-day sentences, no “good time” credits, and absolutely no plea deals.  This is another argument.  Anyone remember Florida’s “10-20-Life” campaign?  The problem with stiffer penalties means more and more cases are taken to trial.  Criminals have nothing to lose by taking their cases to trial.  This drastically slows down the legal system.  Is that even realistic considering the volume of cases being handled by state prosecutors these days?  Probably not.  So what is the solution to this problem?  The solution to this problem is not clear, thus why there is such a debate on the issues.  Political agendas aside, however, something “logical” needs to be done.

I don’t believe anyone on this planet can argue that mental illness did not play a role in most, if not all, mass shootings.  You have to be mentally unstable to walk into a school and shoot children.  In Florida, we have the “Baker Act” law.  Law enforcement officers can take a person into protective custody, under the Baker Act, if they believe the person is a danger to themselves or others.  The Baker Act allows receiving facilities to hold persons “up to 72 hours.”  I have seen mentally unstable people released within an hour of being dropped off at a receiving facility only to walk into traffic, in front of the mental health facility, in an attempt to commit suicide.  True story.  So, what do we do to get this epidemic under control?

First, I believe there needs to be a complete ban on assault weapons.  There is no need for assault weapons in the civilian population.  None.  I understand the NRA’s stance that if you take one gun away, the government can now take them all away.  I wholeheartedly disagree, but I believe it is a risk worth taking.  Human life is far more important than gun ownership.  Second, funding for mental health treatment programs and facilities need to be increased to provide long-term treatment options and stabilizing medications on a more consistent basis.  Lastly, time requirements for receiving facilities to hold persons should be expanded to five (5) days with a three (3) day or 72-hour minimum.  This would give the receiving facility more time to stabilize the patient before they are released from protective custody.

Are these the solutions to the problem?  No.  There are far too many variables.  I do believe they are “logical” and reasonable endeavors to prevent further tragedies.  I am tired of debate; action is needed.  Do something.  Anything but talk!  I am tired of hearing about innocent people being slaughtered.  I am tired of listening to the NRA argue on behalf of assault weapons.  I honestly believe our founding fathers painted an expectation that citizens should be able to own a gun under the 2nd Amendment.  I also think they intended to give the government the right to say which firearms we could possess, in the best interest of our great nation.

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